Tuesday, 29 November 2016

How to Ace the School Nativity

It's been a while since I've written anything but today I have news.  Actually I've lots of things that I could be telling you all about, but for some reason this particular thing stuck out as being important.

An important parenting milestone in fact.

So here it is... (are you ready?)

This year will be the last year I will ever have to endure enjoy the school infants nativity play as a parent.

I know.  It's crept up on me somewhat.  Yet another rite of passage to tick off the list.

To a certain extent I have been waiting for this moment to come for years.  Mainly so I don't have to sit on those god awful tiny plastic chairs in the school hall, but also because once you've seen one nativity, well? You have seen them all.

Anyhow, why am I telling you this?  Well, it occurred to me that while I will be bidding a fond teary farewell to the buildup and stress excitement of this event this year, there will still be many of you who will be starting out on your nativity play watching careers.  And, I for one have learnt a lot during this time and so I thought I could impart some of my wisdom* onto others (sharing is caring and all that) so here it is.

How to ace the school nativity - a guide for parents

1.  Costumes

Oh bloody hell, where do I begin?  That innocent slip of paper that your child brings home in late November stating the costume requirements for their part in the nativity.  This is usually enough to sent the calmest parent into a flap, especially when a) every child in reception is part of a flock of sheep/donkeys/shepherds and b) you can't sew.  So your choice is to go to every frigging Asda in a a five million mile radius to track down the appropriate attire before 29 other parents buy it first *tears hair out*, or you could go for another option...

I must confess that while I remember doing just that, with wry affection, I have not had to bother with any of this kind of stuff for years.  This is because we moved our children to a different school a while back.  And I'll be the first to admit that when the head teacher of the new school proudly told us that all the costumes for Christmas performances were provided by them, my eyes lit up, my heart sang, my fingers sighed a happy sigh that they would never have to stitch tinsel onto a t-shirt again, and dh and I mentally high-fived each other with a look that said "this is the future".  You get the idea.

So my first tip - choose a school that makes its own costumes and worry no more (possibly not an option for most people, but it does work).

I did not make this costume

2.  Starring roles

Essentially what you are dealing with here is managing expectations.  Whatever part your child ends up with, if they are not Mary or Joseph they will probably be a bit miffed.  This year my daughter came home and told me that she was only the donkey and that she didn't have any words to say (unlike her twin brother who did).  She was sad and so I did what any reasonable parent would do in this situation.  I built her part.  "But the donkey is the best part" I said.  "Without the donkey Mary and Joseph can't get to Bethlehem, and better than that there's a whole song dedicated to how great the donkey is.  Basically, without the donkey Mary and Joseph are screwed there is no story".  And with that she now believes that the donkey is the star.  My son is Alien Number Three (yes, I know, how are there aliens in the nativity?  No flipping idea.  I wait to be enlightened).  And yes you might have guessed, he ranks higher than aliens number one and two in the extra terrestrial hierarchy. They are both so thrilled and excited. My work here is done.

3.  Pictures

Listen, whatever you do, make sure that you take a decent picture before you go.  We can't take pictures at our nativity (actual reasons to do with serious stuff), and so we have to take a quick snap before we leave. For your viewing pleasure here is exhibit a), our first nativity as parents.  My husband didn't check the background before taking this and my mother-in-law had left a bag containing a pair of pink slippers in front of the chair.  Unfortunately for my now 16 year old, this picture will be forever known not as "first nativity" but as "bum slippers".  Please learn from our error.

All I wanted was a picture of my child dressed as a sheep, instead I got this?  FFS.


4.  Watching

Same rule applies for every event where the school try to cram 3000 parents** into a space smaller than Harry Potter's understairs bedroom.  Get there first.  If you're canny then offer to help with make-up, costumes or anything which gets you into that hall before everyone else.  I have seen loads of mums do this over the years and often wondered if they were a bit mad but now I see what they were up to. Clever.

5.  Appreciate the teachers

Because no matter how stressed you've been about all the above, you can rest assured that your child's teacher has had this stress x 30 kids for the past month or longer.  If there's one thing I've learnt over the last 11 years of nativity watching its that the teachers manage to bring it all together every year without fail. This is amazing.

However much I might moan about the nativity, it's fair to say that I feel so happy every year when I see my children performing it.  For me it marks the start of Christmas proper, and secretly I love it. 

Oh yes, you might also want to consider bringing a spare tissue?  The woman next to you will have forgotten hers and will probably be doing a good impersonation of Alice Cooper as her children, known as Donkey and Alien Number Three, put on their Oscar winning performances on stage (seriously I already have RADA on speed-dial).  See, even the most nativity-weary of parents get carried away at this time of year...

Final school nativity? I'll ace it (obvs.).


*  OK, just the usual part common sense, part laughing at my own stupidity, but mostly luck

**  This might be a slight exaggeration but it says 3 tickets per child, not bring your entire family tree.  Bitter, me?
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